Litter clearing and weeding for rulebreakers? Finally, a half-decent idea from Michael Gove

Less impressive is the Education Secretary's suggestion that we should bring back the writing of lines – a wholly un-educational exercise


Schools are microcosms of society. And just as most adults are law abiding so most children and teenagers abide by most school rules most of the time. It’s how societies work.

And it’s the existence of sanctions which makes sure they do. One of the reasons I don’t drive at 80 mph in a 50 mph limit is that I don’t want to pay a fine and get points on my licence. Similarly I don’t buy and sell illegal drugs because I don’t want to go to prison.

That’s why schools need rules and sanctions to make sure that the rules are adhered to. Ideally – and probably – the sanctions won’t need to be applied very often but everyone knows they’re there and that they will operate in the event of unacceptable behaviour or actions. Sanctions are not the same as discipline. They simply – but strongly - underpin it.

So I’m three quarters with Michael Gove on this one. New guidelines for teachers, to be issued this week, actively encourage schools not to be afraid of imposing sanctions and clarify what sorts of punishments schools may use.

Anything which actively helps the community gets my vote. So I’m pleased to see litter clearing, weeding, help to clean dining areas and other such menial tasks on Gove’s list of suggestions. I worked in a boarding school where ‘doing a dirty job’ (such as cleaning a cooker in a boarding house) was a standard punishment and it worked well. The pupil learned that the misdemeanour was unacceptable – and the cooker got cleaned which helped others.

Also advocated in the new guidelines is the forfeit of privileges such as taking part in a non-uniform day and that makes sense too. You could also exclude miscreants from certain school trips (the ones which don’t relate directly to the curriculum) or in-school treats.

From a practical point of view insisting that pupils report to school early or attend same day detentions is likely to be more difficult. However cooperative parents are (and they aren’t always, as any teacher will tell you) huge numbers of school pupils are dependant on once a day school buses. Any school which deliberately makes a pupil miss the bus is likely to have problems with car-less parents or those who are at work and/or unable to make alternative transport arrangements. I suspect Gove and his head-in-the-clouds civil servants simply haven’t spent enough time in 21st century schools to understand just what the logistical problems are. Few children live round the corner and walk to and from school independently as many did in, say, the 1950s and 60s.

And for goodness sake don’t anyone even think of bringing back the writing of lines as Gove advocates. It tells children loudly and clearly that writing is a boring activity and to be avoided – even adults think so which is why they use it as a punishment.  It’s a profoundly un-educational message. For the same reason copying passages out of books such as the Bible or a dictionary, both of which I have seen used as punishments in the distant past, should be an absolute no no too.

Otherwise yes, support teachers and schools in the setting up of sensible, workable, constructive sanctions so that children and teenagers can see exactly where the boundaries are. But we must never forget to aim for schools in which good behaviour and respect for others are so well established that sanctions are rarely needed. Some have achieved that. It should be the norm.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Recruitment Genius: Sales / Account Manager

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...

Ashdown Group: Application Developer - C#.Net, ASP.Net - Cambridgeshire

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Software Application Developer (C# & ASP.Net, SQL S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mukesh Singh, who appears in the film, was sentenced to death for his part in the 2012 rape  

The depressing similarity between the Delhi rapist Mukesh Singh and Oxford's Police

Sophia Cannon

If I were Prime Minister: I'd champion the young and hold a cabinet meeting on top of Ben Nevis

Bear Grylls
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot